Mary Nuessen-Brost, a 32-year-old mother of two young daughters, began working out to lose weight for her recent wedding. Driving home from the gym one day, she had an epiphany: she no longer wanted to be skinny; she wanted to be fit!
“I don’t only want to wear a size six,” Neussen-Brost explains, “I want to rock a size six. I don’t only want to look thin at the pool, I want people to say, ‘holy crap girl!’ My goals are now changed.” Like most of us, Mary was fixated on the scale in her bathroom. So she slid it into hiding and unfurled her tape measure. “I want to teach my girls that being ‘skinny’ isn’t what you should worry about, rather being fit and healthy!”
Body image is often a controversial subject. According to their policy boards, Tumblr and Pinterest have placed bans on posts promoting self-mutilation, including “Thinspirational” (Thin-spo) sites. The Huffington Post has recently published articles linking Thin-spo blogs with eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, as weight loss options. Although, some sites state they are NOT pro-anorexia (Pro-ana) or pro-bulimia (Pro-mia) and they are merely attempting to provide a supportive platform for weight loss. However, there are Pro-ana and Pro-mia sites encouraging others to participate in unhealthy lifestyles in order to achieve a waiflike appearance.
The health risks involved with anorexia and bulimia are high. Lisa Brown, MS, RD, CDN and Jennifer Medina MS, RD, CDN, CDE are co-founders of Brown & Medina Nutrition in New York, and caution that “anorexia and bulimia may cause thinning hair [soft, doe-y hair] and hair loss. It affects your fingernails, skin, teeth, and, in some cases, even lead to dark, receded eyes, esophageal erosion, and brain tissue damage.” They also explain, when your body is starved, it slows down your metabolism in order to store what little nutrition it is getting. This also leads to constipation and gastro-intestinal problems. Other risks include a slowing of heart rate, sleep deprivation, swelling in the glands around the jaw and disintegration of eyesight.
For physical and emotional health, don’t focus too much on the scale or your Body Mass Index (BMI). Brown and Medina suggest a different approach to maintaining a healthy body. “There isn’t one tool to tell what is right or wrong. Instead, focus on a fuel mix and intuitive eating — Eat when you’re hungry, but use portion control.” A good reference is the “plate portion” model below. While you may feel compelled to cut sugars, fats, and carbohydrates from your diet, as suggested by some fad diets, it’s not a good idea. Brown and Medina say, “Do not cut categories. Your bodies need certain fats, sugars and carbs and when you cut them cold turkey, you leave yourself open to temptations, which can lead to binging. Be consistent.”
Exercise is the last essential aspect to a healthy body. According to Brown and Medina, you should give your gorgeous body at least 45 minutes of aerobic exercise, four days a week, and work all muscle groups twice weekly. Bodies are different, and scales and BMI charts can be misleading. They also add, “If you’re overweight, decreasing your starting weight by 10 percent will decrease your risk of heart disease and other diet related illnesses;” for example, diabetes.
Discovery Fit and Health lists the following as the best foods for healthy skin. Seafoods, particularly those high in Omega 3, citrus fruits (vitamin C), red and green vegetables (vitamin A and beta carotene), nuts (vitamin E) and whole grains are essential for beautiful, young, and healthy looking skin. WebMD also lists the same foods, plus beans, poultry, eggs and carrots for beautiful silky hair. In a related article they also suggest strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries for cancer prevention. A quick Internet search will provide you with plenty of literature linking healthy diets with beauty.
For further healthy eating and exercising advice, the website for Brown & Medina Nutrition has a resources page loaded with books and articles. While bombarded by babes on billboards and Hollywood hotties, fad diets and trendy cleanses, remind yourself that healthy is always in fashion.